Pollination of Bramley apple trees

Bramley apple blossomBramley apple blossom

Bramley apples are the mainstay of English apple cookery, and Bramley's Seedling apple trees are a common feature of English gardens and orchards. Bramley is also a popular variety in North America, and unlike many English apple varieties, it is well-suited to the North American climate of cold winters and long hot summers.

In most respects Bramley is an excellent apple variety for the garden or small orchard, being easy to grow, very productive, and with good natural disease resistance. For anyone with an interest in apple cookery or juice production it is an essential choice.

However there is one important factor to be aware of: Bramley's Seedling is a triploid variety - it has 3 sets of chromosomes instead of 2 like most apples (and humans). This has some important consequences:

  • Bramley trees cannot pollinate themselves, although like many triploid varieties they do seem to have some partial self-fertility.
  • Bramley's own pollen is effectively sterile and cannot be used to pollinate other apple trees. (Ironically, Bramley blossom is particularly attractive).

The classic sign that you have a pollination problem with your Bramley tree is if the tree looks healthy, and produces lots of blossom, but no apple fruitlets form after the blossom finishes.

The ideal solution is to find two other different varieties that will pollinate the Bramley tree - and also each other. Fortunately Bramley flowers in the middle of the main apple blossom season, so there is a wide choice of varieties that will pollinate it. If you live in a suburban area or village in an apple-growing district you will probably find there are sufficient compatible trees in neighboring gardens. In the worst case you will have to buy 2 other compatible trees and plant them yourself. (Note that these do not have to be full-size trees, they just need to be compatible and planted near enough to enable bees to travel between them and the Bramley).

Here are some combinations that will pollinate Bramley's Seedling and each other.

Traditional orchards often use Cox, James Grieve, or Worcester Pearmain for pollinating Bramley - it seems particularly receptive to these varieties (and to an extent their offspring).

It is also worth considering some of the ornamental flowering crab apple varieties, as these produce large quantities of blossom over a long period and will pollinate almost any apple variety. They are also attractive trees in their own right, and the fruit can be used for culinary purposes

Our online pollination checker lists more apple varieties that will pollinate Bramley's Seedling.

More advice about pollination.